HAMMOND — A federal judge is prepared to punish the former Whiting mayor early next year for illegally covering gambling losses with public campaign donations.
U.S. District Court Judge James T. Moody has scheduled Joseph Stahura’s sentencing to take place Jan. 13.
The 64-year-old Whiting native pleaded guilty Sept. 9 to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, felonies that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
But he and the U.S. Attorney signed a plea agreement granting him leniency in return for giving up his right to trial and making the government prove its case against him to a jury.
The judge has formally accepted the plea bargain, which doesn’t specify what sentence Stahura might receive.
Government prosecutors and Stahura’s defense attorney, Kerry C. Connor are expected to make their sentencing recommendations to the judge next week.
Stahura and his wife, Diane, made more than 50 withdrawals from his Committee to Elect Joe Stahura campaign fund between 2014 and 2019 and transferred about $255,000 to their personal bank account when it became too low to pay bills that had nothing to do with his reelection campaigns.
The government alleges the money covered $55,700 of the couple’s gambling debts at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond; the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Blue Sky Casino in downstate French Lick.
The government isn’t charging Diane Stahura with any crimes at this time in connection with this case.
The mayor also admitted filing a false 2018 federal income tax return that didn’t account for the diverted money from his campaign account, as well as a false 2018 campaign finance disclosure report to the county that overstated his repayment of money he took from his campaign fund.
Stahura also has agreed to pay the Internal Revenue Service at least $28,977 in delinquent taxes.
Stahura served 20 years on the Whiting City Council and 17 years as mayor until his resignation last month.